It’s a hot sultry September afternoon. The burnt orange leaves glow in the weakening rays of sunlight. Fall is leaching its way in with cooler mornings, early sunsets, and puffy gray clouds dancing in the sky. This steady transition between the seasons is not always easy on the body. While the autumn wind whispers through the dry leaves, and the sun still beats down hot and heavy in the afternoons, my joints ache and throb with the building pressure in the skies.
The cooler wetter months can be challenging to those of us living with arthritis and other chronic conditions. The sudden shift in the temperature, dark mornings, and dusky evenings make the joints a little stiffer, giving us more fatigue and a bit more pain as Mother Nature tries to settle into her new role. As the fall rains come down in the misty mornings of September, we mark this month in two ways – the change in seasons and Arthritis Awareness Month.
Fall has always been a busy month for me with writing festivals and conferences, theatre rehearsals, performances, book launches and creative celebrations. This year is a little bit different, in that I will not be on the stage. I made the tough decision to turn down a fabulous role to focus on my writing life and my wellbeing. The one thing I have tried to be more aware of with RA is recognizing my limits, understanding just how much time and energy I can give without pushing myself into a crash or a flare. That means making some decisions on what I can effectively attain.
That’s not to say I don’t struggle with my limitations. I certainly do – often I end up pushing myself too far over the edge, scrapping and scrounging like an alley cat defending its territory – and it always turns out the same way. So, this year I have picked my battles. I have chosen to focus on the parts of my life that sustain me, empower me, and still allow me to achieve success.
Using that self care model, I’ve had time to work with a designer to create my long overdue author’s website, submitted more work, and had literary publishing success. I’ve seen more of my friends and family, enjoyed vacation time travelling within our own province. I’ve had time and space to nurture myself and exercise my creative (and physical) muscles. I’ve found pockets of downtime to recharge, to enjoy the little things we sometimes take for granted, like getting lost in a captivating book, enjoying a glass of fortified wine on my patio in the fading twilight, being present and embracing each moment of my life.
Arthritis Awareness month is not just about raising awareness on the debilitating aspects of chronic illness, but about celebrating the little victories. Always be proud of your accomplishments – no matter how small you deem them to be, they are yours and more powerful because of your limits. My creative life empowers me. For this year’s Arthritis Awareness Month, find and celebrate what empowers you, friends.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.